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Roberts v. Cowan Distrib. Servs., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

October 15, 2014

CHRISTOPHER ROBERTS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COWAN DISTRIBUTION SERVICES, LLC, et al., Defendants

Decided Date: October 14, 2014

As Amended November 10, 2014.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Christopher Roberts, David Oakes, Corey Green, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Bruce Brooks, Charles Jones, Plaintiffs: Craig Juraj Curwood, LEAD ATTORNEY, Curwood Law Firm, Richmond, VA; Philip Justus Dean, Curwood Law Firm PLC, Richmond, VA.

For Cowan Systems, LLC, Cowan Distribution Services, Inc., Defendants: Kim D. Mann, LEAD ATTORNEY, Scopelitis Garvin Light & Hanson & Feary, Washington, DC; Andrew Joseph Butcher, PRO HAC VICE, Scopelitis Garvin Light Hanson & Feary, Washington, DC, NA.

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AMENDED MEMORANDUM OPINION

David J. Novak, United States Magistrate Judge.

In this case, the Court must interpret whether the Motor Carrier Act Exemption to the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to certain employees that performed " yard jockey" assignments at a local Coca-Cola plant. The matter comes before the Court by consent pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1) on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 30) and Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35). On August 22, 2014, the Court held

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oral argument on the matter. At the close of oral argument, the Court ordered the parties to file supplemental briefing with a joint stipulation of facts, which the parties timely filed. Accordingly, the parties have extensively and thoroughly briefed the issues, rendering the matter ripe for decision.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 30), and GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. 35).

I. Background

A. Cowan Systems, LLC

Plaintiffs Christopher Roberts, David Oakes, Corey Green, Bruce Brooks and Charles Jones (collectively " Plaintiffs" ) have brought suit against their employer Cowan Systems, LLC and its payroll servicer Cowan Distribution Services, Inc. (collectively " Defendants" )[2] for claims of unpaid overtime in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 207. (Compl. (ECF No. 1) ¶ ¶ 36-44.) Defendant Cowan Systems operates as a motor contract and a common carrier of property under the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (" FMCSA" ), an agency under the Department of Transportation (" DOT" ). (Joint Stipulation of Facts (ECF No. 61), Stipulation No. 1.)[3] Defendants offer truckload transportation services for customers throughout the United States. (Stipulation No. 305.) Defendants contract with Coca-Cola to employ personnel qualified under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (" FMCSR" ), including -- without limitation -- regulations at 49 C.F.R. § § 382, 383, 391, 392 and 395 to facilitate transportation of products into and out of the Sandston facility. (Stipulation No. 307.)

The Sandston facility is a private facility, on private property and not open to public travel. (Stipulation No. 10.) Further, the Sandston facility is accessible only through a security checkpoint. (Stipulation No. 171.) Tractor-trailers coming to the yard at the Sandston facility must pass through security. (Stipulation No. 172.) Product entering the Sandston facility includes various goods and property shipped from both Virginia and out of state. (Stipulation No. 2.) Between November 1, 2010, and June 30, 2014, Defendants transported loaded trailers for over 88,500 customer orders that went through the Sandston facility. (Stipulation No. 312.) Approximately 49% of those orders involved movement across state lines. (Stipulation No. 313.) Approximately 15,200 loads originated in Virginia, destined for another state; approximately 17,800 loads originated outside of

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Virginia, but were scheduled for delivery within Virginia; and approximately 1,200 loads both originated and ended in locations outside of Virginia, but passed through the Sandston facility. (Defs.' Mem. of Facts and Law In Supp. of Summ. J. (" Defs.' Mem." ) (ECF No. 31) at 6.) All drivers that Defendants employed to work at the Sandston facility transported freight on the public highways at some point during their employment. (Stipulation No. 314.)

Defendants' job description for the position of driver provided in part that actual driving assignments of employees generally remained constant, but Defendants reserved the right to change an employee's assignment. (Stipulation No. 3.) Further, an actual driving assignment constituted a duty assignment only -- not a separate job category -- and could change at any time. (Stipulation No. 3.) Defendants employed drivers qualified to perform any driving assignment to ensure Defendants' priorities of customer satisfaction and highway safety. (Stipulation No. 209.) In doing so, Defendants ensured that any driver could provide driving services that Defendants needed to meet customer demand. (Stipulation No. 216.)

All drivers that Defendants employed were required to maintain a commercial motor vehicle driver's license. (Stipulation No. 222.) Before driving for Defendants, drivers had to pass an FMCSA physical in accordance with 49 C.F.R. § 391.41. (Stipulation No. 228.) Further, drivers had to pass a road test pursuant to 49 C.F.R. § 391.31 before driving for Defendants. (Stipulation No. 234.) Additionally, drivers were required to pass a written test on the DOT rules before driving for Defendants. (Stipulation No. 240.) Defendants required that all drivers maintain medical authorization to drive pursuant to 49 C.F.R. § 391.43. (Stipulation No. 246.) Drivers were required to pass pre-employment controlled substance testing pursuant to 49 C.F.R. § 382.301, as well as FMSCA required alcohol and drug testing for purposes of compliance with 49 C.F.R. pts. 40 and 382. (Stipulation No. 252.) Defendants required that drivers comply with the record of violations requirement pursuant to 49 C.F.R. § 391.27. (Stipulation No. 270.) Finally, Defendants required drivers to maintain FMCSA Hours-of-Service logs pursuant to 49 C.F.R. pt. 395. (Stipulation No. 276.) Defendants further performed required investigations and inquiries on drivers as required by 49 C.F.R. § 391.23. (Stipulation No. 258.) Defendants performed an annual inquiry and review of driving records for its drivers in accordance with 49 C.F.R. § 391.25. (Stipulation No. 264.)

Drivers could be assigned to a variety of assignments, including: (1) road driving requiring transportation of freight throughout the country, (2) local driving requiring transportation of freight within a specific region, and (3) yard-jockeying requiring moving trailers around and within a customer's or Defendants' property to facilitate the loading and unloading of freight. (Stipulation No. 306.) Although drivers generally had primary assignments, any driver could be reassigned to a different assignment to meet customer demand. (Morgan 30(b)(6) Dep. (ECF No. 36-1) 97:1-7, June 19, 2014.) Any determination on changing an assignment could occur day-to-day. (Morgan 30(b)(6) Dep. 112:8-17.) This could happen every day for several days, or it could not happen for several months. (Morgan 30(b)(6) Dep. 112:17-19.) The ability to interchange the drivers in assignments allowed Defendants to succeed, and at any given time, a driver could be asked to do a different assignment. (Morgan 30(b)(6) Dep. 97:1-7,12-17,112:8-20.)

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Defendants had approximately fifty employees at the Sandston facility. (LaPointe Dep. (ECF No. 36-2) 10:10-15, May 30, 2014.) Six routinely performed yard jockey duties, and another four to six filled-in on yard jockey duty. (LaPointe Dep. 24:13-19.) Defendants found it consistently easier to pay yard jockeys an hourly rate, rather than a mileage rate paid to those making deliveries, because drivers performing yard jockey duty did not generate miles. (Morgan 30(b)(6) Dep. 110:19-111:5.) If a driver was absent, Defendants would not under normal circumstances pull a driver performing a yard jockey assignment to drive a route for the absent driver. (Stipulation No. 192.)

Defendants used a software package and database called the " TMW system" to track and record information on customer orders. (Stipulation No. 9.) The TMW system is designed to capture all deliveries from the Sandston facility, and driver deliveries are supposed to be tracked on the TMW system. (Stipulation Nos. 11, 12.)[4]

B. Christopher Roberts

Plaintiff Christopher Roberts applied for a driver position with Defendants. (Stipulation No. 4.) Defendants hired Plaintiff Roberts as a driver and, during Plaintiff Roberts' employment with Defendants, he was qualified under the FMCSR to drive for Cowan. (Stipulation No. 4.) In 2007, Plaintiff Roberts began working full-time for Defendants as a driver. (Stipulation No. 13.)

Before driving for Defendants, Plaintiff Roberts was required to pass a written test administered by Defendants on the DOT rules. (Stipulation No. 240.) While employed with Defendants, Plaintiff Roberts was required to maintain a commercial motor vehicle driver's license. (Stipulation No. 223.) He also had to maintain FMSCA Hours-of-Service logs during his employment. (Stipulation No. 277.)

Plaintiff Roberts transported freight on public highways 290 times between January 1, 2010, and June 30, 2014, including trips in June 2012, September 2012 and January 2013. (Stipulation No. 211.) TMW data detailed that Plaintiff Roberts made deliveries originating in one state and ending in another on January 4, 2010, April 5, 2010, and May 23, 2010. ( See Roberts TMW Summ.)[5] TMW data did not show that Plaintiff Roberts made any deliveries between May 23, 2010, and June 26, 2012. ( See Roberts TMW Summ.)

In May 2012, Plaintiff Roberts had a car accident, making performing yard jockey duties difficult. (Stipulation No. 92.) After the accident, Plaintiff Roberts requested to go back to driving. (Stipulation No. 93.) Plaintiff Roberts then yard jockeyed three days per week and drove two days per week. (Stipulation No. 95.) TMW data revealed that Plaintiff Roberts delivered a shipment in Maryland

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on June 28, 2012. ( See Roberts TMW Summ.) Between June 2012 and January 2013, Plaintiff Roberts regularly transported shipments across state lines to and from Maryland. ( See Roberts TMW Summ.) On January 20, 2013, Plaintiff Roberts delivered a load originating in Burlington, New Jersey, and ending in Mechanicsville, Virginia. ( See Roberts TMW Summ.)

Plaintiff Roberts brings claims for unpaid overtime compensation for two periods. First, Plaintiff Roberts seeks overtime compensation for the period beginning November 19, 2010, and ending May 5, 2012. (Pls.' Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Partial Summ. J. (" Pls.' Mem." ) (ECF No. 36) at 2.) Second, he seeks overtime compensation for the period beginning January 21, 2013, and ending November 1, 2013. (Pls.' Mem. at 2.)

C. David Oakes

Plaintiff David Oakes applied for a driver position with Defendants. (Stipulation No. 5.) Defendants hired Plaintiff Oakes as a driver and, during Plaintiff Oakes' employment with Defendants, he was qualified under the FMCSR to drive for Defendants. (Stipulation No. 5.) Defendants hired Plaintiff Oakes as a " local driver," and he began his employment on April 19, 2011. (Stipulation Nos. 15, 16.)

Before his employment, Plaintiff Oakes was required to pass a written test administered by Defendants on the DOT rules. (Stipulation No. 242.) While employed by Defendants, Plaintiff Oakes was required to maintain a commercial motor vehicle driver's license. (Stipulation No. 224.) Further, he was required to maintain FMSCA medical authorization during his employment. (Stipulation No. 248.) Plaintiff Oakes also was required to maintain FMSCA Hours-of-Service logs throughout his employment. (Stipulation No. 278.)

Plaintiff Oakes transported freight on public highways during his employment 1,176 times between April 2011 and January 2014, including trips in April 2011, June 2011, August 2011, November 2011, January 2012, March 2012, May 2012 and July 2012. (Stipulation No. 212.) Beginning in April 2011 and ending in July 2012, TMW data recorded that Plaintiff Oakes regularly made deliveries originating in one state and ending in another, including to and from Alabama, Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. ( See Oakes TMW Summ.)[6] TMW data shows that Plaintiff Oakes made a delivery in Maryland on July 1, 2012. ( See Oakes TMW Summ.) According to TMW data, Plaintiff Oakes did not make any deliveries originating in one state and ending in another after that date. ( See Oakes TMW Summ.)

Plaintiff Oakes has brought claims for unpaid overtime covering his employment during the period beginning July 3, 2012, and ending November 1, 2013. (Pls.' Mem. at 2.)

D. Corey Green

Plaintiff Corey Green applied for a driver position with Defendants. (Stipulation No. 6.) Defendants hired Plaintiff Green as a driver and, during Plaintiff Green's employment with Defendants, he was qualified under the FMCSR to drive for Cowan. (Stipulation Nos. 6, 16.) In 2008, Plaintiff Green began his employment as a local driver. (Stipulation No. 16.)

Before his employment, Plaintiff Green was required to pass a written test administered by Defendants on the DOT rules. (Stipulation No. 243.) During his employment,

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Plaintiff Green was required to maintain a commercial motor vehicle driver's license. (Stipulation No. 225.) Additionally, he was required to maintain FMCSA medical authorization while employed by Defendants. (Stipulation No. 249.) Plaintiff Green was also required to maintain Hours-of-Service logs during his employment. (Stipulation No. 279.)

After May 2009, Plaintiff Green was never asked to move a load or drive a truck outside of the Sandston facility. (Stipulation No. 204.) While Plaintiff Green transported freight on public highways during his employment, Plaintiff Green had not done so between November 1, 2010, and June 30, 2014. (Stipulation No. 213; see also Morgan Decl., Ex. 2.)

Plaintiff Green has brought claims for unpaid overtime stemming from his employment beginning on November 19, 2010, and ending on November 1, 2013. (Pls.' Mem. at 2.)

E. Bruce Brooks

Plaintiff Bruce Brooks applied for a driver position with Defendants. (Stipulation No. 7.) Defendants hired Plaintiff Brooks as a driver and, during Plaintiff Brooks' employment with Defendants, he was qualified under FMCSRs to drive for Cowan. (Stipulation No. 7.) On April 8, 2009, Plaintiff Brooks began his employment with Defendants as a local driver. (Stipulation No. 17.)

Before beginning his employment, Plaintiff Brooks was required to pass a written test administered by Defendants on the DOT rules. (Stipulation No. 244.) During his employment with Defendants, Plaintiff Brooks was required to maintain a commercial motor vehicle driver's license. (Stipulation No. 226.) Plaintiff Brooks maintained such a driver's license, as well as a hazardous material endorsement. (Stipulation No. 320.) Further, he was required to maintain FMCSA medical authorization during his employment. (Stipulation No. 250.) Plaintiff Brooks was also required to maintain FMSCA Hours-of-Service logs during his employment. (Stipulation No. 280.)

On January 4, 2010, Plaintiff Brooks delivered a shipment in Elkridge, Maryland, that originated in Richmond, Virginia. ( See Brooks TMW Summ.)[7] Between that date and September 2010, Plaintiff Brooks regularly made deliveries originating in one state and ending in another, including trips to and from Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. ( See Brooks TMW Summ.) TMW data shows that the last trip during this period for Plaintiff Brooks that originated in one state and concluded in another state occurred on September 17, 2010. ( See Brooks TMW Summ.)

Plaintiff Brooks has brought claims for unpaid overtime stemming from his employment for two periods. First, he seeks overtime compensation from the period beginning November 19, 2010, and ending September 3, 2011. (Pls. Mem. at 2.) Second, he seeks overtime compensation from the period beginning September 1, 2013, and ending November 1, 2013. (Pls.' Mem. at 2.)[8]

F. Charles Jones

Plaintiff Charles Jones applied for a driver position with Defendants. (Stipulation No. 8.) Defendants hired Plaintiff Jones as a driver, and during Plaintiff Jones' employment with ...


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